FEBRUARY 21, 2000

Don't Mess with These Ladies

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Men are from mars, women are from Venus, right? Well, not if you're comparing management styles. In fact, a 15-year survey of 41,000 executives--25% of them female--at 5,000 companies shows that women are slightly more high-handed than the guys are when making decisions.

So says Discovery Learning, a leadership-training company in Greensboro, N.C. It came to that conclusion by investigating whether managers solve business problems autocratically--preferring to make unilateral decisions--or ''inclusively,'' using the input of others. Overall, men went the inclusive route 29% of the time, women only 24%. In situations where an autocratic style was deemed appropriate, women chose ''my-way-or-the-highway'' 35% of the time, guys only 31.5%. Women were also more likely than men to exclude key personnel needed to implement a decision by 37% to 32%.

That raises an interesting question about women managers, says Discovery Learning CEO Chris Musselwhite: ''Did they make it to these levels because they operate more like men, or is there basically no difference?'' Musselwhite can't answer that. But if your boss is a Ms., don't automatically expect her decision-making to be warm and fuzzy.

Edited by Robert McNatt

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